Marc Glassman, proprietor of Pages. Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.
It isn’t every day that you go to a wake for a bookstore.
It’s even rarer that one feels appropriate.
Last night, in the overflowing ballroom of the Gladstone Hotel, the community which has worked at, browsed in, bought from, flirted in, pitched to, been inspired by, and loved Pages bookstore came together for a bittersweet night to mark all that the bookstore has meant to Toronto. Produced by This Is Not A Reading Series, Pages’s own programming arm (which will, thankfully, be sticking around despite the physical store’s closure), “Afterword” was a tribute to all the ways in which Pages has contributed to the life of the city, and all the ways it influenced the individuals who crossed its threshold.
It was, in fact, the idea of community—of a tribe formed by something as simple as a shared fascination with words, and the joy and refuge they provide—which was the prevailing theme of the evening. As one speaker after another took the stage, the significance of something as seemingly ordinary as a bookstore became clear: Lawrence Hill described it as “one of the five or six bookstores” which were willing to carry his first novel; graphic novelist Seth humbly thanked Pages for “help[ing] me make the transition from a rural hick to a big-city hipster”; and publisher Matt Blackett provoked a gasp by pointing out that a quarter of Spacing‘s newsstand sales, and 10% of its total revenue, have come via Pages’s till.
Owner Marc Glassman spoke last of all: first jokingly, repeating some of the wackiest questions that store staff have been asked (“Can I use your computer to print out my paper?” “Can you spy on my fiancé?”), then seriously, voice breaking, trying to evoke what thirty years’ worth of book curation (which was Pages’s defining kind of brilliance) had meant.
Reflecting on the evening, TINARS co-artistic director Chris Reed told us afterward: “Due to our talented friends on stage and behind the scenes at Coach House and Spacing, we managed to send the bookshop off in style without burying the dream. Tomorrow we start our first, Pages-less TINARS season.”
Tomorrow is now today. It, like last night, is bittersweet.